Oct 9, 2021; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Shadeed Ahmed (0) celebrates with fans after catching a touchdown pass during the first overtime against the Old Dominion Monarchs at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall indicates it is leaving Conference USA for Sun Belt

Marshall is the latest school to commit to joining the Sun Belt Conference.

The athletic department released a video on its Twitter account on Friday indicating it was joining the league.

“Let’s have some fun! #RiseAsOne|@SunBelt,” the text above the video said.

Marshall will become the ninth school to depart Conference USA in the latest round of league shuffling.

The addition of Marshall will give the Sun Belt 15 full members, including 13 for football.

Earlier this week, the Sun Belt formally announced the additions of Southern Miss and Old Dominion. Both those schools will depart C-USA and join the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023

The Sun Belt also has held discussions with FCS power James Madison, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Six other C-USA schools — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — are leaving to join the American Athletic Conference in 2023 at the earliest.

The defections leave C-USA with five members: Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, UTEP and Western Kentucky.

C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said last week that the league is seeking new members with some possibly coming from the FCS level.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A player of the Marshall Thundering Herd holds his helmet to celebrate the touchdown by tight end Ryan Yurachek (not pictured) against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall All-American OL Cain Madden to transfer

Marshall second team All-American guard Cain Madden announced Wednesday that he has entered the transfer portal.

Madden has one year of eligibility remaining, granted by the NCAA to all athletes last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s the 11th player from last season’s team to transfer after the Thundering Herd fired head coach Doc Holliday in January after 11 years.

“I am genuinely grateful for the five years at Marshall where I have been able to grow and cultivate my skills both on and off the field,” Madden posted to Twitter.

Madden started nine games last season, earning a second team All-American nod from The Associated Press.

Pro Football Focus rates Madden the top overall right guard in the country.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd logo is seen on a pylon in the end zone before a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Marshall to hire Alabama assistant Charles Huff as coach

Marshall is in the process of hiring Alabama running backs coach Charles Huff as its new head coach, according to multiple reports.

Huff’s hiring is expected to be discussed and approved by the university’s board of governors on Monday. Huff also had the associate head coach label at Alabama and would become the 12th current Black head coach at the FBS level.

The 37-year-old Huff will replace Doc Holliday, who was let go after 11 seasons with the Thundering Herd.

Huff is the second Alabama assistant to land a head job in recent weeks. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is the new coach at Texas.

The Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points while going 13-0 this season. Alabama rolled to a 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game earlier this week.

Huff just finished his second season with the Crimson Tide. Among his college assistant stops was Penn State (2014-17), where he was the position coach of All-American back Saquon Barkley. He also was the assistant running backs coach for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 2012.

Huff has drawn rave reviews for his recruiting throughout a college coaching career that began in 2006. He played college football at Hampton and was the team’s starting center in 2005.

Holliday compiled an 85-54 record after taking over the Huntington, W.Va., program in 2010, including a 6-2 record in bowl games and three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-15.

This season, the Thundering Herd went 7-3 and were ranked as high as No. 15. Holliday was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year for the second time.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2018; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday against the South Florida Bulls during the second half in the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall fires Holliday after 11 seasons

Doc Holliday is out after 11 seasons as the head coach at Marshall.

The university announced Monday it was not renewing the contract for Holliday, 63, who guided the Thundering Herd to a 7-3 record in 2020.

Marshall was ranked as high as No. 15 after a 7-0 start this season, its highest poll position since 1999. Holliday was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year for the second time (2014).

Holliday compiled an 85-54 record since taking over the Huntington, W.Va., program in 2010, including a 6-2 record in bowl games and three straight 10-win seasons from 2013-15. He is the program’s winningest coach at the FBS level, surpassing Bob Pruett (79-23 from 1997-2004).

“I’ve always strived to build and leave the program better than I found it,” Holliday posted on Twitter. “The program and players are the most important thing, more important than any individual coach or staff who has the privilege to be in Huntington. I’m proud to leave the program in a great place. We took a lot of pride in building a winning and clean program by doing things the right way.”

Holliday’s best season was 2014, when Marshall finished 13-1 with a Conference USA title and a win in the Boca Raton Bowl.

“I want to thank Doc Holliday for the leadership he has provided this program over the past 11 seasons,” Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said in a news release. “In addition to his success on the field, he ran a clean program, graduated his student-athletes and prepared young men for life after football.”

Before taking over at Marshall, Holliday was a longtime assistant coach at his alma mater West Virginia and also spent time at Florida (2005-07) and North Carolina State (2000-04).

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd mascot celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall cancels Friday game against Charlotte

The Marshall Thundering Herd won’t be hosting the Charlotte 49ers in Friday’s scheduled regular-season finale due to a roster that’s been depleted by injury and a small coronavirus outbreak.

A statement from the team also cited a lack of available scholarship student-athletes at key positions.

“Due to the developments this week, myself and our medical team felt that it was unsafe to put the team on the field Friday evening,” athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “I’d like to thank Charlotte AD Mike Hill and the 49ers’ administration for their patience and understanding. I also want to thank the Conference USA office for its support and guidance as we worked through this process.”

Marshall was originally scheduled to play the 49ers on Nov. 21, but COVID-19 issues in the Charlotte program scuttled that date.

Marshall (7-1, 4-1 Conference USA East) suffered its first loss of the season last week, falling 20-0 to Rice and losing its No. 21 ranking in the process. It was the Herd’s first game since a 42-14 win over Middle Tennessee St. on Nov. 14.

Florida Atlantic is also 4-1 in Conference USA’s East division and plays Southern Miss on Thursday in their regular-season finale.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd mascot celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Rice intercepts five passes and shuts out No. 21 Marshall

Naeem Smith scored on a 36-yard interception return to highlight a stellar team defensive effort as visiting Rice blanked No. 21 Marshall 20-0 in a Conference USA clash Saturday in Huntington, W.Va.

Rice (2-2, 2-2 C-USA) played without starting quarterback Mike Collins and leading receiver Austin Trammell due to injuries, but still managed to snag its first road win over a top 25 opponent since Oct. 12, 1991 at No. 8 Baylor.

The Owls notched five interceptions and three sacks and handed the Thundering Herd their first-ever shutout at Edwards Stadium, and first overall since Oct. 14, 2000 at Toledo.

Marshall (7-1, 4-1) had not trailed in the fourth quarter or at the half all season, but quarterback Grant Wells struggled. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 165 yards but five different Rice defenders tallied interceptions. Brenden Knox rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries as Marshall was held to a season-low 245 total yards

JoVoni Johnson completed 10 of 14 passes for 86 yards with no turnovers in his first start of the season for Rice. Ari Broussard (62 yards) and Khalan Griffin (56) combined for 118 rushing yards on 36 carries. Collin Riccitelli added field goals of 39 and 40 yards.

Smith’s pick-six came when he jumped a hot-route read on a blitz. He stepped in front of the quick throw and raced untouched for the score to give Rice a 20-0 lead with 7:50 left in the third quarter. It started a run of three interceptions on four throws for Wells.

Rice led 10-0 at the half to put the upset in play. The Herd, playing for the first time since Nov. 14, had six penalties and two turnovers and four possessions that ended on the Owls’ side of the field in the first two quarters.

Treshawn Chamberlain picked off Wells on Marshall’s second possession, and his 21-yard return set up Rice’s first short-field TD drive. Jordan Myers capped the 10-play march, all runs, with a 1-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter.

A fake punt, and a Marshall pass interference penalty on the play, kept alive Rice’s second scoring drive. Riccitelli finished off another 10-play drive with his 39-yard field goal with 5:49 left.

Ricciitelli hit his 40-yard field goal with 9:24 left in the third for a 13-0 lead.

Blaze Alldredge, Andrew Bird and Josh Pearcy all added interceptions for Rice, which won for the first time in six tries at Marshall.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Brenden Knox (20) runs the ball and is tackled by Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Kaiden Smith (13) during the first quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Marshall set to end layoff, face Rice

No. 21 Marshall looks to play a game for the first time in 21 days when it hosts Rice on Saturday in Conference USA play at Huntington, W.Va.

The Thundering Herd (7-0, 4-0 C-USA) have avoided their own COVID-19 issues but had a Nov. 21 home game postponed due to an outbreak in Charlotte’s program. Marshall had a bye last Saturday.

The Thundering Herd will get no sympathy from Rice, which has played just three games this season.

The Owls (1-2, 1-2) played just once over the past four weeks as games against UTSA (Nov. 7), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 14) and UTEP (Nov. 28) were either postponed or canceled due to the opponents’ COVID-19 issues.

So when Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said late last week there are no COVID-19 issues in his program, you can bet Marshall coach Doc Holliday was elated.

In fact, Holliday gushes over the fact his team has been able to successfully ward off COVID-19 problems.

“We’re proud of that, knock on wood,” Holliday told reporters. “Let’s hope that continues because with what’s going on out there right now, there’s a lot of unknowns. We’ve got to keep doing everything we can possibly do to keep this thing rolling.”

The Thundering Herd have certainly been rolling over opponents as they have won their seven games by an average of 27.3 points. Marshall has topped 40 points on three occasions and held four opponents to 10 or fewer points.

Marshall is averaging 37.4 points per game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells heads the charge with 1,674 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Junior running back Brenden Knox has also been superb with 744 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Knox has carried 148 times and been dropped for just 3 yards of losses.

Senior weak-side linebacker Tavante Beckett leads the way on defense with team-high totals of 69 tackles and four forced fumbles. Junior defensive end Darius Hodge has a team-leading six sacks for a unit allowing 10.1 points per game.

Seems like quite a challenge for Rice, but Holliday insists the Owls are better than their record.

“They’ve played everybody tough, to be honest,” Holliday said. “No. 1, they’ve got a bunch of kids that love to play. You watch them play — they play extremely hard.”

Rice lost 27-17 at North Texas on Nov. 21 in its lone contest last month.

Senior quarterback Mike Collins passed for two touchdowns and a season-best 327 yards in the setback.

Perhaps as impressive as the stats was the resilience Collins showed. The transfer from TCU was sacked seven times by the Mean Green but kept getting up without being dismayed.

“We didn’t do a very good job protecting him, and he still wanted the ball in his hands,” Bloomgren said. “He didn’t cower or ask us to call runs. He wanted the ball in his hand, he wanted to win the game, and that’s the mindset of a champion.

“That’s what we want around us. Even when it’s not going well and he’s getting hit, he wanted the ball. We’ve got to get all 22 completely there, to have belief we can do this and trust each other. Then we’ll be fine.”

Collins has thrown for 802 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. His favorite target is senior wideout Austin Trammell, who has 16 receptions for 335 yards and six scores.

Senior weak-side linebacker Blaze Alldredge leads the Owls’ defense with 32 tackles.

Marshall has won five of the seven all-time meetings, including all three at home.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte 49ers head coach Will Healy during the first quarter of the game against the Charlotte 49ers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte postpones game at No. 15 Marshall

A COVID-19 outbreak within the Charlotte football program led the 49ers to postponed their scheduled Saturday road game against No. 15 Marshall.

Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill made the announcement Monday.

“We were really looking forward to this game,” Hill said in a statement. “Marshall has a tremendous team, and it was a big opportunity to compete against them. We’ve been on both sides of these postponements, and either way, it’s incredibly disappointing. We will use this week to get healthy and wish Marshall the best this season.”

No makeup date was announced.

Charlotte (2-3, 2-1 Conference USA) has now had six games canceled or postponed this season due to the pandemic. The 49ers’ next scheduled game is Nov. 28 at home against Western Kentucky.

The Thundering Herd (7-0, 4-0) had a game postponed for the fourth time. They are idle until a Dec. 5 home game against Rice.

The Charlotte-Marshall contest is the seventh game scheduled for this week that was postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd mascot celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Marshall trounces Middle Tennessee State, 42-14

Freshman quarterback Grant Wells threw for 336 yards and five touchdowns Saturday as No. 16 Marshall pulled away from Middle Tennessee State in the third quarter for a 42-14 Conference USA win at Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va.

Wells completed 25 of 37 passes with no interceptions as the Thundering Herd improved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference. Marshall outgained the Blue Raiders (2-6, 2-4) 520-303, despite running back Brenden Knox being held to a season-low 70 yards on 16 carries.

Sophomore quarterback Asher O’Hara hit on 29 of 44 passes for 241 yards with a touchdown for Middle Tennessee and also led the team in rushing with 39 yards and a score on 11 carries. But his efforts weren’t enough for the Blue Raiders to solve one of the nation’s top defenses.

Wells gave the Herd an early lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Willie Johnson at the 7:18 mark of the first quarter.

O’Hara led a game-tying 73-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter, aided by consecutive Marshall penalties that bailed Middle Tennessee out of third-and-10. O’Hara finished it with a 4-yard touchdown strike to Jarrin Pierce.

However, Marshall struck late in the half with two scores. Two plays after hitting Johnson with a 44-yard pass to the 5, Wells found Hayden Hagler for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:08 remaining. Wells then cashed in on a short field created by a strip-sack, driving the team 47 yards and hitting Corey Gammage with a 17-yard strike 32 seconds before intermission.

The lead increased to 28-7 on Wells’ 28-yard pass to Gammage 3:28 into the third quarter. O’Hara scored on a 2-yard run at the 6:51 mark to get the Blue Raiders within 14 points, but the Herd added a 26-yard touchdown jaunt by Sheldon Evans and Wells’ 23-yard scoring pass to Johnson.

Marshall wore all-black uniforms and the number 75 on its helmets to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people on Nov. 14, 1970, on a flight home from a game at East Carolina.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd players celebrate after defeating the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall set to host MTU on anniversary of crash

Nov. 14 will always live in Marshall football infamy.

But on the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 people, including nearly the entire roster and coaching staff, the Thundering Herd will try to give their fans a better memory of the day.

Ranked 16th this week, Marshall looks to improve to 7-0 when it hosts Conference USA foe Middle Tennessee on Saturday in Huntington, W. Va. The Thundering Herd, 3-0 in conference play, are coming off a 51-10 rout last week against overmatched Massachusetts.

Minutes after that game ended, Marshall coach Doc Holliday gave his players a quick history lesson on the importance of playing on Nov. 14.

“This is the most important game we play all year,” he said. “It’s not even close. They understand that next Saturday, it’s a game you better prepare harder than you’ve ever prepared. This game means more to our community, fan base and school than any game you’ll play all year.

“When you put that ’75’ on your helmet and put on that black jersey and black pants, you better be ready to go play.”

The Herd have been on point all year, relying on an experienced offensive line and a stout defense to cruise through most of their games. All their wins have been by double figures, although the only one that really moved the needle nationally was a 17-7 verdict Sept. 19 over then-No. 23 Appalachian State.

The Minutemen got the entire Marshall offense thrown at them last week. Brenden Knox ran for 118 yards, the fifth straight game he’s gone over 100. Freshman quarterback Grant Wells hit on 21 of 30 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. And the Marshall defense steadied after a rough first quarter, ceding just 190 yards and 12 first downs for the day.

Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee (2-5, 2-3) has been idle since Oct. 24, when it survived Rice 40-34 in double overtime. That game was most notable for the Owls’ decision to play for a 44-yard field goal attempt in the first OT — and then the kick bounced off both uprights and the crossbar (twice) before landing in the end zone: A “quadruple doink.”

Quarterback Asher O’Hara made the Blue Raiders’ flight from Houston a happy one, however, winning the game with a 14-yard touchdown run. O’Hara has been the star of the Middle Tennessee offense this year, throwing for 1,509 yards and 11 scores while rushing for a team-high 476 yards and six touchdowns. He’s been responsible for 17 of the Blue Raiders’ 23 touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee’s game scheduled for last week against Charlotte was postponed because of COVID-19 cases and contact tracing in the 49ers’ program. The teams are aiming to reschedule the game in December.

Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill calls the recent circumstances surrounding his team unique.

“We’ve had a good couple of weeks,” he said. “It’s not an advantage, because we didn’t spend any extra time working on Marshall … but it is what it is. You can’t control it.”

Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 4-3, including a 24-13 decision last year in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

–Field Level Media